I am lucky enough to have in my personal library a book entitled ‘The Mourner’s Friend or Sighs of Sympathy For Those Who Sorrow’. It is a collection of prose and verse compiled to give comfort to the grieving. Edited by J.B. Syme, published in 1852 by S.A. Howland in Worcester, Mass, USA; its contents are by American and European authors and some surprising famous names. My copy of the book has some water damage, ageing paper, and precarious binding, so before it deteriorates my project to preserve the words of the authors will find its way here on the MOLAM blog.
EVERY one who has visited Washington, I suppose, has spent half an hour before the picture of the Embarkation of the Pilgrims, on the panel in the rotunda. Painters have told me that it was the best picture there ; and others, whose connoiseurship is that of feeling, merely, have confessed to daily and nightly hauntings for many weeks, from some of its figures and groupings.
The tender sadness on the meek face of the invalid boy, and the saintly goodness making that of his mother beautiful, with all its wrinkles, contrast harmoniously ; as, indeed, is there not always harmony in the antithesis of objects beautiful in themselves ; with the youthful and stately figure of Lady Winslow, and the proud, soldiery seeming of the handsome Miles Standish.
But it is, I believe, the exquisite countenance of Rose, his young and lovely wife, through whose incomparable eyes speaks the whole soul of feminine constancy, tenderness, and trust, and on whose forehead rests some rays from the far-off crown of martyrdom, –that elected heritage of womanhood,–which attracts all regards, and conquers all hearts ; consecrating, in a thousand memories, shrines where its remembrance may keep its throne, “a think of beauty,” and “a joy forever !”
Mr. Weir, the artist, received, as perhaps all your readers know, ten thousand dollars form the government for his picture. This sum he invested, entire, for the use of his three beautiful children . Alas for his poor hear, his poet heart ! It was his lot to survive them all. When they were dead, a sentiment of religious delicacy prevented his appropriating this fortune, which reverted to him from his children. We can all understand the feeling ; it is the same which keeps sacred the wardrobe of the little lost darling, through the widowed mother must toil the later, of a winter’s night, to clothe here younger children ; the same that guards untouched, in the old homestead, the library and the laboratory, now useless, of the dead student, through hist sturdy brothers must labor the harder through the long summer days, to redeem the holy extravagance. But the bereaved father bethought him of a worthy use, to which he would consecrate this ownership, sanctified by their brief inheritance. Having chosen a lovely, mountain-shadowed knoll, in a rural village by the Hudson, he built thereon a commodious house of worship, which he named the “Church of the Holy Innocents.” Other children, who should at the font be baptized into His name, who was the friend of children ; priests, who should at that altar take “vows of God” upon them ; lovers, who should there promise to each other a lifetime of mutual help and mutual love ; the dead, over whose clay the solemn words of burial, “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” should there be spoken ; these were to be the legatees of the artist’s children.
Is it not a “touching poem,” this offering which love and grief have had on the altar of faith and charity ?
It is easy to believe these children must have been fair and lovely ; and, with the image of Rose Standish in our thoughts, to fancy their mother most beautiful and good. Indeed, I cannot conceive the artist could have painted such a face, except as the portrait, in form or in soul, of the woman that he loved. For it is not a sister’s, nor a daughter’s face, –there is something widely different in the tender meanings clustering around that beautiful mouth, and in the earnest, — oh! that word is week ! the intense devotion and truthfulness of those wonderful, upward-glancing eyes. It needs not the manly figure by her side, nor the familiar touch of her slender hand upon his shoulder, to tell us that Rose Standish is a bride.
Mr. Weir’s church, half buried in summer foliage, when we saw it, is a beautiful specimen of rural architecture, and its bell has a tone very musical and sweet. This is as we should have chosen. Let beauty and melody hang the garland and the lyre over the “high places” hallowed by the affections, –let them adorn and dignify the altars where the tender voices of religion and desire whisper hopefully of a reunion. It is their true apostleship on earth.